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Professor Emeritus Leslie Bassett Has Died


Leslie Bassett, the Pulitzer Prize-winning composer who taught at the University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre & Dance for 40 years, died on Thursday, February 4 in Oakwood, GA. He was 93.

Bassett, who received his MM and DMA at Michigan (the University's first DMA, in 1956), was the Albert A. Stanley Distinguished University Professor Emeritus of Composition. He taught from 1952-92, served as chair of the Department of Composition from 1970-85, and was the 1984 Henry Russel Lecturer, the University's highest faculty honor. He was also one of the founding members of the U-M's Electronic Music Studio and oversaw the Contemporary Music Performance Project, funded by the Rockefeller Foundation.  

Bassett received the 1966 Pulitzer Prize in Music for his Variations for Orchestra, which was premiered in Rome in 1963 by the RAI Symphony Orchestra. Other honors included the Prix de Rome (1961-63), Guggenheim Fellowships (1973, 1980), a Fulbright Fellowship to Paris (1950-51), the Naumburg Recording Award (1974), awards from the Koussevitsky Music Foundation (1971, 1991) and the National Endowment for the Arts, and membership in the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

Many of the world's most prestigious orchestras have performed Bassett's compositions including those of Philadelphia, New York, Cleveland, Boston, Los Angeles, Chicago, Baltimore, Detroit, Zurich, and Rome. His string quartets have been performed by such ensembles as the Juilliard, Pro Arte, and Concord Quartets, and his music for wind ensembles and bands has been widely played. He also has a substantial catalogue of works for chamber music, soloists, singers, and choirs.

Among the many successful composers that Bassett taught and mentored at Michigan were Sidney Hodkinson, Roger Reynolds, John Anthony Lennon, Arthur Gottschalk, Frank Ticheli, Derek Bermel, and Gabriela Frank.

Born in Hanford, CA, (January 23, 1923), Bassett subsequently studied piano, trombone, cello and other instruments, then served as trombonist, composer, and arranger with the 13th Armored Division Band in the U.S. and Europe during World War II.

After the war, he earned his undergraduate degree at California State University in Fresno, arriving at Michigan in 1947 for graduate study with Ross Lee Finney. This was followed by work in Paris as a Fulbright fellow with Arthur Honegger at the Ecole Normale de Musique and with Nadia Boulanger at her home. He returned to Michigan as a member of the faculty in 1952 and later studied electronic music with Mario Davidovsky the Spanish-British composer Roberto Gerhard. His wife, Anita Denniston Bassett, is also an alumna of U-M's composition department.  

In 1976, Bassett was among a selection of celebrated artists that were interviewed for the book Artists as Professors (University of Illinois Press) by Morris Risenhoover and Robert T. Blackburn. He was asked: "What do you think has happened to your creative output as a result of your affiliation with a university?" Basset answered: "For me, I can't imagine another life in which I could have done what I've done. I give great credit to having been in a university as a stimulus to my work."

Leslie Bassett's papers, from 1946-2005 are housed at Michigan's Bentley Historical Library, and include correspondence, recordings, news clippings, speeches, photographs, and many of his music compositions, including original manuscripts, publisher's galley proofs, and published scores.

Gifts in memory of Leslie Bassett or his wife Anita, who passed away four weeks after Professor Bassett, can be directed to the Leslie and Anita Bassett Endowed Scholarship Fund for music composition students at the University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre & Dance, 2005 Baits Drive, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-2075 or (734) 647-2035.

An obituary for Professor Bassett was published in the Detroit Free Press on the day of his death.



past news

November 2015
October 2014

Anisha Nandi, from The Michigan Daily, sat down with professor Michael Gould to talk about his "Remember Me" show. The video can be seen on the Michigan Daily website.   10/01/2014

July 2014

Arthur F. Thurnau Professor of Dance, Peter Sparling is a recipient of a Distinguished University Professorship. Effective September 1, Sparling will be a Rudolf Arnheim Distinguished University Professor. This appointment is one of the highest honors the University can bestow upon a faculty member.   07/18/2014

Professor Patricia Hall will be presenting her paper, "Alban Berg's 'Guilt' by Association to the Music, Censorship and Meaning in Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union conference at the Colburn School in Los Angeles this August.   07/12/2014

April 2014

Prof. Ed Sarath Receives U-M's "Harold R. Johnson Diversity Service Award" 04/21/2014

Professor Kuster Wins Prestigious OPERA America Grant 04/04/2014

Professor Mukherji to Speak in London this July 04/04/2014

Áine Heneghan, Assistant Professor of Music Theory, will present her research on Schoenberg's Formenlehre at the following conferences, all in 2014: Music Theory Midwest (Appleton, WI), the Eighteenth Biennial International Conference on Nineteenth-Century Music (Toronto, Canada), EuroMAC (Leuven, Belgium), and the annual meeting of the Society for Music Theory (Milwaukee).   04/01/2014

March 2014

U-M UpstART Festival Begins 03/31/2014

A Multimedia Installation on Climate Change 03/28/2014

Wayne Petty, Associate Professor of Music Theory, will read his paper, "Some Multimovement Designs in C. P. E. Bach's Late Keyboard Sonatas" at the Seventh EuroMac conference, which will gather scholars from all music theory societies in Europe in Leuven, Belgium, from 17 to 21 September, 2014.  An adaptation of the paper will be presented to the Society for Music Theory in Milwaukee in the Fall of 2014.   03/26/2014

Walter Everett, Professor of Music Theory, announces the publication of Los Beatles como músicos: De Revolver de la Antología (Buenos Aires: Eterna Cadencia, 2013), the Spanish translation of his The Beatles as Musicians: Revolver through the Anthology (Oxford University Press, 1999).   03/21/2014

Celebration of Professor George Shirley's 80th Birthday 03/19/2014

Prof. Korsyn presents keynote in The Hague, serves in scholarly appointments 03/14/2014

December 2013

In January 2014 Professor Wayne Petty will read the paper, "Wilhelm Fischer and the Fortspinnung-type Sonata Exposition," at the Seventh International Conference on Music Theory in Tallin and Pärnu, Estonia.  The conference theme is "Musical Form: Mapping the Territories."   12/17/2013

AmeriGrove II, edited by Professor Charles Garrett, is published 12/13/2013

November 2013

Gosman Presents Beethoven Research 11/16/2013

Department of Music Theory Announces Visiting Speakers of 2014 11/16/2013

Everett Launches Beatles Observances 11/16/2013

Interarts professor Holly Hughes presents The Dog and Pony Show (Bring Your Own Pony) in a webcast performance at the Chicago Humanities Festival on Mon., Nov. 4 at 7:30 p.m. Her newest performance work, the piece offers a poetic and comic meditation on midlife crises in the key of canine.   11/01/2013

September 2013

SMTD Welcomes New Faculty 09/27/2013

Ramon Satyendra, associate professor of music theory, has published his essay, "Morphisms of Generalized Interval Systems and PR-Groups" (co-authored with Thomas Fiore and Thomas Noll), in Journal of Mathematics and Music 7/1.   09/20/2013

Alan Gosman Co-authors New Beethoven Book 09/06/2013

July 2013

Professor Ashley Lucas and three Theatre & Drama students are engaged in an intensive exchange program with UniRio in Rio de Janiero, Brazil this summer, where they are blogging about their experiences in UniRio's prison arts program and more.   07/12/2013

June 2013

SMTD Mourns Professor Emeritus Erling Bengtsson 06/10/2013

Holly Hughes, professor of interarts performance in the Department of Theatre & Drama, was profiled in Hyperallergic, an online magazine about art and culture, which included a Q&A with Hughes about her role as one of the "NEA Four."   06/06/2013

Music theory professor Walter Everett's role as an expert on the music of the Beatles was the subject of an article in      06/06/2013

Hall presents in Copenhagen 06/03/2013

May 2013

Robert Hurst, associate professor of jazz and contemporary improvisation, was featured in a Q&A article in on the occasion of the release of his new CD, BOB: a palindrome.   05/01/2013

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